Creative Biblical content at the intersection of life and faith.

Brian is the author of #TheWalk, a contributor to the Faith, Hope, and Love Daily Devotional, a pastor, and teacher.  Brian speaks regularly for various groups and events.  FeelMyFaith.com began as a writing project in 2007 and has expanded into the media outlet of Brian's ministry.

Discouraged Not Destroyed

">Discouraged but not Destroyed from Brian Branam on Vimeo.
The opening Psalm sets the tone for the rest. It compares two people on two paths. The one is the blessed man who doesn't walk in the counsel of the wicked. He loves the Word of God and he is like a tree planted by a stream of water that constantly nourishes his life and in everything he does, he prospers.

The wicked man isn't like that. His wickedness gives him to ground to stand on. It fails him. He is exposed. That's the way life is supposed to work...

So what happened in the last 36 Psalms?  By the time we get to Psalm 37 we are angry? "Fret not yourself because of evildoers, be not envious of wrongdoers." Two dangerous things are happening to the righteous who in Psalm 1 were to be bearing fruit. Here they are fretting themselves, which means to be angered or burned up. To add to the danger, they are actually envious of the wrongdoers. They begin to question if God is fair, listening, good, etc., if the Word really works, and if any of this is worth it. Ultimately the end result of our fretting and our envy is spelled out in v. 8, it tends to evil.
Continue reading
170 Hits

How Not To Lose Your Mind in Our Final Week on the Planet

"Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you.  For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. . . But you are not in darkness, brothers, for the day to surprise you like a thief. . . So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober."  2 Thessalonians 5:1-6

According to the Mayans and Nostradamus, the world is scheduled to conclude one week from today.  The prospects of finality bring several critical questions to the forefront.  What should we do with our final seven days?  What will I wear next Friday?  Will I have enough Double Stuffed Oreos to get me through my final week on the planet?  Should I do any Christmas shopping?  Does this mean I have to shave or can I let myself go?  I am supposed to finish a root canal on Tuesday, why?

I have too much to do for the world to end in a week!

As a Christian our response to doomsday should be the same as our response to everyday, sobriety balanced with watchfulness.  Here are a few things to consider, from a Christian perspective, to keep us from losing our minds in our last week on the planet.

The Mayans Don't Know

The curious thing to me about the Mayan prediction is that they somehow knew when the rest of us would disappear, but they had no idea that they were about to disappear.  The truth of the whole matter is that they didn't know.  The Mayans, Nostradamus, nor any man has ever been entrusted with the information necessary to know when the world will end (Matthew 24:36).

Followers of Christ are Not To Live in Light of One Day, but Any Day

Doomsday predictions inevitably lead to anxious countdowns, a day of holding our breath, and then waking up the next morning wondering what will we do today?  The Bible teaches that any day could inaugurate the end.  As a follower of Christ we should be sober about existence.  No day is guaranteed and everyday is to be lived in the fullness of Christ (Matthew 24:44).

Its not About Prediction, but Preparedness

When it comes to the end of days, many Christians have become as goofy about the whole thing as the Mayans, Nostradamus, or as Edgar Whisenant's classic 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988.  We turn the end times into a game of charting, decoding, and predicting.  The interesting thing about the Bible is that we miss the forest for the trees.  When it comes to the end times the Bible is intentionally ambiguous and abundantly clear.  What is abundantly clear is that Jesus will come again and set the world back to right.  What is intentionally ambiguous is when and for the most part how.  In what order will things unfold.  I have my ideas, you may have yours, but it doesn't matter. The one message Jesus had in all of this is respond to the gospel and be ready whenever it happens.  When we think about the end of days as a day for our prediction we ignore the Biblical message, be prepared whenever it should come (Luke 12:40).

Its Not About the End of a Calendar, Its About The End of a Story

The end of days is not about the exhaustion of the environment, the collapse of an economy, or the end of chronology on a calendar.  The end of days is about a return and a reckoning.  The world will not end because we have choked ourselves to death on diesel fumes.  It will not end because the polar ice caps have flooded the world due to global warming.  The world will not end because the Mayans quit counting.  The end will come as an intentional move by a sovereign God who is just.  The end of days is not a cataclysmic accident, but an intentional act of a loving God to complete His plan of redemption.  It is not the end of human history, but of salvation history, the story of God to redeem and make all things new (Rev. 21:5).

For Those Who Follow Christ then End is Not Doom but Blessedness

Dec. 21 is doomsday, they say.  Whether or not the world ends next Friday, true followers of Christ have no reason to look at the end of days with fear, but with anticipation.  Many people read the Book of Revelation as if it is a dreaded day.  It is, if you do not know Christ as Savior.  But for the believer the end is not a dreaded day, but a blessed one.  Titus 2:13 actually calls all of this, "our blessed hope." For those who were suffering terribly under the cruelty of Roman persecution, the Book of Revelation was not bad news, but great news.  No matter how evil or powerful the world becomes, Christ will be the victor of all and He will make all things right.  If you want hope in the end, follow the victor now.  Repent of sin and receive eternal life in Christ (John 3).

Balance Soberness with Watchfulness

December 21, 2012 will fade into the night and December 22, 2012 will awaken us with another day full of life and responsibility.  No matter what happens we need to shave, eat Oreos in moderation, and by all means buy Christmas presents.  We need to be sober - which means don't lose your mind over the end!  We need to be watchful - which means we don't need to lose sight that there is an end.  Paul's message to the Thessalonians in 2 Thess. 5:1-6 was about holding these two truths in balance.  The Thessalonians had an unbiblical view of the end and because of it, they lost their mind.  Let's be biblical about the end and whether or not this be our last week on the planet, let's keep it in perspective and not lose our minds as well!

Continue reading
116 Hits

The Way He Created (A Conversation with The Gospel Project)

This week our church begins using The Gospel Project as curriculum for our Sunday School groups.  My intent here is not to replace the material (as it is good enough), nor to write a commentary on it (as it is understandable), but to only add to the conversation in a way that may help our students and teachers hit the topics from other angles. 
My wife’s grandfather was a real craftsman with wood.  He had a small shed in his backyard that served as his creative retreat.  Inside his workshop were not only his countless number of tools but also piles of what looked to me to be scrap wood.  What appeared to be scrap to me, in his hands, given time, would become nice pieces of furniture.  Each piece reflected his vision and his skill.  Each piece also bore his mark.  Somewhere, hidden from view, he would sign his name and the year he made the piece.  
Several pieces he made now serve in our home as functional cabinets, tables, and stools.  But they are more than this.  They are treasures, especially to my wife and her immediate family, that bring back memories because they are reflections of her grandfather.  They bear his name.  They are the end result of his vision.  They reflect his skill and care.
The creation account in Genesis is not just about declaring who created the universe, but it is a rhythmic story of how.  It does not tell us how in the same sense that a molecular biologist would explain to us how a cell comes to life.  Instead, the creation account tells us how God created the world as an introduction to what God is like.  
He is powerful.  With mere words He creates light, separates the waters, and brings forth biological life.  While all of creation bears evidence of His design, none of it bears his name, but one piece.  Man.
Man, God created last.  This was God’s crowning achievement.  But he did not simply declare man.  Everything else was spoken into being, but the Bible tells us that man was formed by God.  Man began in God’s hands.  Not only did God form man, but He breathed into Him.  Our breath, our being, what we are is not simply a conglomeration of cells inhaling and exhaling oxygen.  We are alive because we are fueled by the breathe of God.  He did not blow on us.  He brought us close to Himself and He breathed into us.  It is then and only then that we became a living soul.  Unique from all other creatures, He also gave us His name.  We are created in His image.
Compared to every other tale of creation, whether ancient or modern, the Creation story of the Bible stands alone.  In other contexts we are either a grand biological accident or we are the refuse, the afterthought of the gods.  The Enuma Elish of the ancient Mesopotamians made us the excrement of the dieties.  To the ancient Egyptians, man was merely a slave of the gods.  To the Greeks, woman was given to man as a trap.  Pandora’s womb, or her “box” as we call it, would only bring forth evil each time it was opened.  Darwin made us little more than monkeys.  But the story the God of the Bible tells is that man was created purposefully, intimately, carefully, wonderfully.
Genesis 1 and 2 tells us how we were made.  In doing so this narrative brilliantly introduces us to the main character of the Bible’s grand story.  When He created the world He was up to something good.  In fact, once God created man, He called it very good.  But it would not be long before it all went bad.  Very bad.
More to come . . .

Continue reading
126 Hits

Introducing God (A Conversation with The Gospel Project)

This week our church begins using The Gospel Project as curriculum for our Sunday School groups.  My intent here is not to replace the material (as it is good enough), nor to write a commentary on it (as it is understandable), but to only add to the conversation in a way that may help our students and teachers hit the topics from other angles.  
When it comes to origins the church has been deceived into believing that there is only one conversation worth having.  And that conversation, seems to be more of a debate than a dialogue.  Was the universe created by God?  The winner is determined only by whom can yell the most science at his opponent and thus beating him into empirical submission.  
The opening chapters of Genesis are not a scientific shouting match.  This is the opening scene of a story.  As such the primary intent of the creation account is not to provide a scientific record.  The intent is to reveal the Bible’s main character.  The message is not, “This is how God created the world.”  The message is, “This is God.” 
The Bible has entered the conversation of origins attempting to prove to us nothing, but desiring rather to give us a story that explains everything.  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The fact that He did it is not in question by the author.  There is no debate.  There is not even a dialogue here.  This is a declaration.  In the Hebrew text there are only seven words and the action of the story is quickly underway.
The first seven words of the Bible tell us who did it, now the author weaves together a rhythmic script of the way He did it.  We move from declaration to introduction.  Yet, it is here that we cheat ourselves if we only debate origins.  We lose God in the debate.  The story is lost in the science of it all.  Lecture me on science and my mind will soon wonder.  Tell me a good story and you will have my attention for hours.
Genesis 1 and 2 is a great story.  By telling us the way God created the world the author is introducing us to who God is.  The bacterial flagellum screams at us intelligent design, but the human soul craves to know more about a person than whether or not they are intelligent.  When was the last time you asked a person, “What’s your IQ?”
We want to know if anyone cares.  Are you angry?  Is something wrong?  Where are you from?  Why are you here?  Does he ever smile?  What makes her laugh?  Is there love here?  How will you impact my story?  These are the questions that magnetize our soul and connect us with other people.  If this is what we want to know of other people, how much more do we want to know this of God?
This is the concern of Genesis 1 and 2.  By telling us what God did the storyteller shares with us what God is like.  So when we read the opening sequence of Genesis, let us lay aside our flagellum for a moment.  I am not suggesting that we also lay aside our intelligence, but I am saying, watch the show.  See the character.  By watching the way He does what He does, get to know Him.  Dare to ask the storyteller as he shares Genesis 1 and 2, what is God like?  
More to come . . .   
Continue reading
147 Hits

Church Appreciation 2012

This month I will begin my 17th year serving the local church as pastor.  God has blessed me with the privilege of serving three great congregations during that time:  Lantana Road Baptist Church in Crossville, TN (1996-2002); Ridgecrest Baptist in Trussville, AL (2002-2012); and currently Liberty Baptist Church of Dalton, GA.  I am deeply appreciative of the experiences God has given me at every place and for the people He has brought into my life along the way.  I am a very different person now than I was when this journey began.  Thank you, to everyone who has helped to mold me as a man and as a pastor.
This year we made a bittersweet move to Dalton, GA.  The bitterness came as we were called to leave a group of people we dearly loved and a place that was very much home in Birmingham, AL.  Added to the bitterness was the difficulty of watching our daughters deal with the natural challenges of leaving a place in which you are rooted.  Birmingham was really all they had ever known.  The sweetness came in the prospects of being called into leadership at a church that was very much alive, healthy, and had a great vision for the future.  Personally, although I thought I would never return to NW Georgia in my adult life, it was a special blessing to realize God was calling me back to my roots.  
In the short time we have been at Liberty we have experienced 7 of the greatest months we have ever had in 16 years of ministry.  Just two weeks ago we saw almost 100 people come to Christ and nearly 70 follow the Lord in believer’s baptism.  Each week I come to this campus wondering what will happen next.  You are a people who love Biblical preaching.  You are sensitive to the Spirit.  You are intentional about reaching the lost.  You are welcoming to the broken.  You follow leadership.  I absolutely love being your pastor.  I count it a great honor that God has brought me here.
This week you have shown your appreciation to me, my family, and our staff.  It is with great gratitude that I receive your love.  But I want you to know what I appreciate about you the most.  I appreciate the way you have received my family into this fellowship.  Your love for the Branams is the greatest gift you have given me.  You received my daughters as your daughters, immediately.  You opened your hearts to Shannon and I as not only leaders, but as friends.  You have overwhelmed us with your love.  I leave here each Sunday night astounded by the spirit that is in this congregation.  
Thank you Liberty Baptist Church for receiving me as your pastor and showering my family with your love.
Your Pastor,
BB, Gal. 2:20
Continue reading
143 Hits

The Return of Nehemiah

">The Return of Nehemiah from Brian Branam on Vimeo.
Nehemiah was a man who caught a vision for the revival of God's people. However, this return to a homeland could not simply be a physical relocation, but also a spiritual one as well. The scope of the gospel and plan of God for the ages has to be at the forefront of our returning or else we do not know to what we must return, what it looks like, what the standard is. The gospel calls us to return to the cross, return to the commission, return to the commandments, return to our family, return to missions, return to giving, return to worship - if we simply feel sorry and want to do better, then we have failed. The point of returning is to get ourselves back in line with God's love for His people in the covenant.
Continue reading
171 Hits

Resources that Help (Part 2)

In my previous post I mentioned that there are three types of tools I use regularly that help us study the Bible faithfully.  They are:  1)  Resources to help us investigate Bible backgrounds 2)  Resources to help us investigate Biblical languages 3)  Resources that help pull all we would investigate together.
In this post I will share about resources that help us investigate Biblical languages.
The Bible was translated into English.  The Bible was not written in English.  The failure to realize the implications of the previous two statements has not only been the source of one of the modern church’s most ridiculous squabbles but it has also been the wellspring of poor preaching and teaching over the years.  The original languages of the Bible are Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic; not Shakespearean English.  So when we study the Bible we are not trying to get back to the meaning of the words in the KJV, we are trying to bring out the meaning of the words that appeared in the Greek (NT) and Hebrew (OT) texts.
To help us in this task we need two things, a sample of modern English versions of the Bible that reflect a wide range of equivalence and a Strong’s concordance and/or a language dictionary that is coded to Strong’s numbers.
Translations and Equivalence
I am not an expert in Biblical languages by any means, but in what study I have done in this area, it has helped me to realize how difficult it can be to translate one language into another.  As the old saying goes, something is always lost in translation.  Like any language, Greek and Hebrew are very picturesque languages with words that can carry a wide range of meaning.  
A close to home example of the task of translation is the Spanish word piñata.  There is no English translation for the word piñata.  Yet, if you were to ask some English speaking people to define piñata, one person might say, “It is a papier-mache container, usually shaped like an animal that is stuffed with candy.”  Another person might say, “It is an animal shaped candy container that people hit at a party.  When it bursts candy goes everywhere.”  In this scenario, both descriptions are right.  One description offers a technical, more literal description that helps us understand what a piñata is like.  The other description offers a more functional description that helps us understand how a piñata is used.  Both descriptions taken together give us a range of equivalence, or a range of meaning.
When speaking of Bible versions or translations we usually refer to them based on either dynamic or formal equivalence.  Dynamic equivalence means that the translation of the word tries to render the meaning of a statement in a way that is most familiar to the reading audience.  Formal equivalence means that the translation of the word tries to render the form of the statement that is closest to the original language, yet understandable in English.  Although it is technically impossible to render a “literal” translation of the Bible that is readable by an English speaking audience, formal equivalence is generally what people refer to as “literal” translation.  
Modern Bible versions exist on a scale somewhere between formal and dynamic equivalence.  According to Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, authors of How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth translations such as the KJV, NKJV, and NAS exist on the scale closer to formal equivalence.  While these translations are more literal, the intended meaning of the text may be lost in translation.  Translations such as the NIV, TNIV, and NAB are exist closer on the scale to dynamic equivalence.  These translations are usually more readable and easier to understand.  While these translations make the text more understandable to the reader, the original form of the text can be lost in translation.  Other translations such as the ESV and the NRSV are more central on the scale between dynamic and formal equivalency.    
In Bible study, it may be helpful to compare translations that exist on various points on the scale of equivalency.  I find it helpful to also have a more “free” translation on hand, what some would call a paraphrase.  These translations are more thought for thought.  Translations in this category would be the NLT or The Message.  When I compare versions, I generally pull together the NAS, ESV, NIV, and NLT.  By doing so it helps me to see the range of meaning that is present in Biblical words.
A good verse to use would be 1 Corinthians 13:12.  This verse works especially well if you are accustomed to studying the Bible primarily in the KJV.  By following this link, you can see that the KJV says, “Now we see through a glass darkly.”  What does this mean?  Does it mean that I am looking through a dark tinted glass, like sunglasses or maybe a dirty window?  What does this mean?  
By looking at some other modern versions, you see that the original word here is more equivalent to our word “mirror” which is indeed made out of glass.  Yet, while this may seem more literal and technically more accurate, the word being translated here actually has nothing to do with glass at all.  The word actually speaks of a highly polished piece of metal that would be used for reflectivity.  Which also explains why the text reads that we see “through a glass darkly.”  It doesn’t mean that the mirror is dark in color, the word more accurately rendered means that the image is blurry, you can’t see it fully.  If you have ever used metal as a mirror you know that no matter how polished it may be, there is some distortion to the reflection.  In this case we get the full intent of the author in the NLT which reads, “Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror.”  Though the NLT is nothing close to a literal translation, we see that by moving further down the scale of equivalence, in this case, we get a more faithful rendering of the original text.

Language Dictionaries (to be continued)
Continue reading
167 Hits

Christ for Our Kids

">Christ for our Kids from Brian Branam on Vimeo.
Continue reading
204 Hits

Louis Zamperini Story

Here is the video I shared Sunday night.

Continue reading
180 Hits

The Return of Nehemiah (Talking Points for Sunday A.M. 9/92012)

From Nehemiah 1:

Too often "revival" is a planned event, a mere "flash in the pan" with no long term consequence.  Nehemiah's return to God, his revival, was foundational not merely a flashpoint.  His return to God began the process of rebuilding a nation.  How do we experience revival that is more foundational than flashpoint?  For revival to have a long-term impact on a people and a community we must understand the nature of returning.

  • Returning begins with confession out of brokenness.
  • Returning is based in Scripture.
  • Returning is born out of constant prayer.
  • Returning brings us back from the extremes.
  • Returning is a beginning, not an end in itself.
Continue reading
132 Hits

Resources that Help (Part 1)

In the past several posts on teaching and Bible study I have argued for an approach that seeks to understand the meaning of the Bible in its original context.  This keeps us from pressing on the Scripture a meaning that is skewed by our own experience and cultural reference points.  Instead, by seeking to know what the intent of the author to his original audience, we actually uncover a more powerful meaning that brings out the eternal relevance of Scripture to our current context.  
This all sounds great, but how does the reader make it happen?  The key is tools.  We employ great Bible study tools that will help us get a better understanding of Scripture in context.  I would call your attention to three that I use regularly.  1)  Resources to help us investigate Bible backgrounds 2)  Resources to help us investigate Biblical languages 3)  Resources that help pull all we would investigate together:
  1. Resources that help us investigate Bible backgrounds.
Many would refer to this category as Bible dictionaries or encyclopedias.  I chose not to use the term dictionary for sake of confusion and very few of the books that I employ for this task are called “encyclopedia” anymore.  Most people think of a dictionary as a book that helps us with vocabulary, and while this may be true in the common world, in the Bible world, dictionaries are very encyclopedic.  Confusing, isn’t it? 

Bible dictionaries are thematically and contextually oriented.  For instance, if you were reading Matthew 16:13, the passage in which Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of man is?”  This is the same passage in which Peter makes the grand declaration that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.  To understand this passage more fully we can’t ignore the contextual clue that Matthew leaves us in verse 13, “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked . . .”  If we don’t care for a contextual reading of the Scripture we will ignore these statements completely, but they are important.  Here is a snippet of what the Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary says about Caesarea Phillipi:
The site has been suggested as that of OT Baal-gad, Baal-hermon, or Beth-rehob, but pottery fragments found thus far do not pre-date the Hellenistic period. The earliest developments took place during that period in the area of the cave and the spring. Greek settlers named the site Paneion (also spelled Paneas and Panias) after the Greek god Pan; the surrounding territory was also known as Paneas. Niches were cut in the face of the bluff and around the cave, recognized as the sanctuary or dwelling place of the deity, and dedicated to “Pan and the Nymphs.” According to Josephus, the region was given to Herod by Caesar Augustus in 20 b.c.e. Herod in turn constructed a beautiful white marble temple dedicated to Augustus, and it most likely became the focal point of the cultic precinct.
It is significant then that the occasion for Jesus question was not Jerusalem, Nazareth, Samaria, or any other town but Caesarea Phillipi which was steeped in idolatry.  If you look up pictures of Caesarea Phillipi you will see the Grotto of Pan still cut into the rocky mountainside.  Here people would come to make offerings and seek answers. Here they sought prosperity and blessing from the gods.  At the Grotto, they sought salvation.  It is in this context, of countless gods that Jesus asks the question, “But who do you say that I am?”  
Understanding this context not only makes our reading come alive, but it will also lend itself to more weighty teaching for those who are leading small groups within the church.  As you will see, understanding this background does not restrict my application of this verse to our modern context, but it gives it greater application because it is more faithful to what God has said.  
People haven’t changed.  Though we may not cut a Grotto of Pan into the mountainside, we still have our grotto cut; a shrine to our would be saviors.  We easily sell the future commodity of our soul to the decisions of politicians, the rise and fall of companies, or to the allure of popularity.  If we could only catch a break, get noticed, or be the beneficiary of a decision that would bring a windfall our way everything would change.  The problem is that it is not those outside of Christ who are caught in the chase for Pan, but it is those who  would call themselves the disciples of Christ.  Jesus didn’t ask “other men” who He was, He directed the question to His own.  
Do you really understand what it means to call Jesus Lord?  It means not only does Jesus stand alone, but it means that he does not save in the same way as the gods cut into the rocks of the countryside.  His salvation is not first political, financial, physical - it calls for something much deeper.  It calls for a collision with the soul, much like Peter had.  “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”  That realization changes everything.  According to the rest of Jesus statement in Matthew 16:13-20 the people who embrace Jesus’ “Christ-ness” births a powerful community that carries with them access to the Kingdom of Heaven.  With such authority, they make a massive impact on earth.  There is nothing in the Grotto of Pan for them.  They have found so much more in Christ.  Indeed, this becomes the plot for the rest of the gospel and on into the Book of Acts.  
A Bible dictionary is a great tool for context.  Here are a few recommendations:
Tyndale Bible Dictionary, The New Bible Dictionary, The Archeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land, Holman Bible Atlas, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, New Nave’s Topical Bible.
I would also recommend, Ferguson - Backgrounds of Early Christianity, any number of “Life of Christ” books, and the IVP Bible Background Commentary.
Many of these resources may be accessed easily online.  I will share with you this info. in a later post.
Continue reading
199 Hits

A Word to the Wives

">A Word to the Wives from Brian Branam on Vimeo.
Continue reading
191 Hits

Christ for our Kids (Talking Points for Sunday A.M. 9/2/2012)

According to Ephesians 6:1-4 the Christ centered model for the relationship between parents and their children emphasizes:

  1. Parents are given authority over their children.
  2. Parents are to exercise benevolent discipline toward their children.
  3. Parents are to raise their children to know the Lord.
  4. Children are to see their parents as a gift from God.
  5. Children who receive godly instruction will reap the fruits of their obedience well into their adult lives.
Continue reading
139 Hits

The Christ Centered Family

">The Christ Centered Family from Brian Branam on Vimeo.
Continue reading
174 Hits

Proper Ex and Eis in Ruth

It has been several weeks since I posted in this series, but in the last piece I wrote about the importance of discovering the context of a passage in Bible study, especially for the purpose of teaching.  Context is the story behind the story.  It is the surrounding, perhaps unmentioned details that help give the story meaning.  When a passage is taken out of context we commit a hermeneutical no-no in that we are then free to make the passage mean what we want it to mean.  Yet, as we have discussed before, a passage never means what it never meant (Fee and Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, loc 574 Kindle Ed.).  Context is important.  Allow me to demonstrate.
As a pastor I feel sometimes like a wedding groupie.  If there is a wedding within 50 miles I’m probably going, either by invite or as the officiant.  Over and over again I have heard Christian couples include a powerful Bible verse in their vows:
“Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge.  Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”
I am not trying to be critical.  I get it.  These are great words that seem to appropriately express the spiritual commitment of marriage.  If you want to use these words in your ceremony, do it; I’m not knocking it, but you should be aware of the context.
The words are from Ruth 1:16.  They were voiced by Ruth, not to her husband, but to her mother-in-law.  They were not even said at a wedding, but after a funeral.  Ruth’s husband has died.  Ruth met her lat husband because her in-laws had left Bethlehem due to famine and had settled in the pagan land of Moab.  Ruth, at the time she said these words was not a believer.  She was a good pagan girl.  I would argue even that when Ruth said these words she did not become a believer.  She was simply expressing a common cultural formula to her mother-in-law.  
In moving back to Bethlehem they were crossing a national border.  In ancient pagan thought the gods were sort of caged by the borders.  Each nation had their gods and if you wanted to escape the wrath of a certain god, you could move to a land out of his domain, where other gods ruled.  Ruth was saying, “We are crossing the border.  I want to be a part of your people by also receiving the dominion of the rule of their God.”  The beauty of the story is that even though Ruth did not fully comprehend what she was saying, she would soon find that the benevolent rule and law of Israel’s God would indeed become her salvation.
When the verse is read in context it has a whole new meaning.  I would even argue that it has an even greater meaning than one that we would supply for it.  As creative as we may be, there is a power already in the Word of God that we cannot rival.  As teachers and students of the Bible our task is not to supply meaning to the Word.  This is called eisogesis (Greek preposition eis means “into”).  It means to read meaning “into” the text.  Our task is exegesis (Greek proposition ek means “out of”).  As Exodus is the story of God pulling His people out of Egypt, so exegesis is the task of pulling the meaning out of a Scriptural text.  The meaning of the text is already there.  We do not supply it, we discover it!
Continue reading
205 Hits

6 Words for Men (Talking Points for Sunday A.M. 8/26/12)

6 words from Ephesians 5:25-33 a man must take seriously if he is to be the head of his home:

1)  Responsibility
2)  Self-sacrifice
3)  Communication
4)  Nourishment
5)  Union
6)  Love
Continue reading
141 Hits

Fun With Water Spouts at PCB

3 water spouts that appeared in front of our condo, yesterday at Panama City Beach, FL near Pier Park.

Continue reading
195 Hits

Who Ruined Your Fairytale?

Continue reading
186 Hits

Things You WILL NOT Hear at the Liberty Men's Fall Retreat (Jimmy and David)

">Mens retreat ad 3 Jimmy and David from Brian Branam on Vimeo.
Continue reading
149 Hits

Why So Many Men are Hooked on Porn and Video Games

Below is an excerpt from an excellent article by Russell Moore at Moore to the Point:

Satan isn’t a creator but a plagiarist. His power is parasitic, latching on to good impulses and directing them toward his own purpose. God intends a man to feel the wildness of sexuality in the self-giving union with his wife. And a man is meant to, when necessary, fight for his family, his people, for the weak and vulnerable who are being oppressed.

The drive to the ecstasy of just love and to the valor of just war are gospel matters. The sexual union pictures the cosmic mystery of the union of Christ and his church. The call to fight is grounded in a God who protects his people, a Shepherd Christ who grabs his sheep from the jaws of the wolves.

Continue reading
163 Hits